The World Has Simple, Obscure Rules

A friend I played golf with years ago had a thought that makes some sense.

“It’s not bragging if you can do it.”

People sometimes had a problem with that idea for no real reason.  If you can do it, it is just a fact.  Rightful pride maybe.  In poor taste possibly.  Belittling I suppose.  But, not bragging.

There is another distinction that people sometimes don’t notice.  Anything is easy if you know how.  My grandson Michael is a very capable musician.  Both in practice and in theory.  He can listen to an album and say things like “The songs are nearly the same.”  I don’t hear that.  He once listened to eleven versions of House of the Rising Sun and claimed they were identical save the one done by Joan Baez.  He has also noted that the lead instrument in Dave Clark Five songs is the drum.  I missed all of that.  He treats it as a trivial observation.

The point is that he enjoys music at a different level than I.  I still enjoy it, but more intuitively.  He knows why some effect surprises and why it works.  Like the bagpipes in AC/DC’s, “It’s A Long Way To The Top.”  I am surprised subliminally and really don’t care why it pleases me.

Financial plans work like that too.  Some people are intuitively good planners; others not so much.  Who needs help?  The first thought is that the weak planners need help, but practically the intuitive planners benefit more.  It’s like when Michael explains to me why the bagpipes work.

Why should that anomaly be so?

Because intuitive planners are already disciplined and organized and the refinements an advisor can give them implement easily.  Poor planners usually lack discipline and persistence, so even the best plans fail to implement or they change at the first sign of variation.


Good planning requires mental endurance.  That should never be assumed to exist.  An advisor can offer ideas about efficiency or sometimes complete the picture, but their best values are calculator, cheerleader, and conscience.

Advisors seem expensive until you realize what you get for your money.  Fact based opinions are usually more durable.  Know what you pay your advisor, but also know what you buy before you decide on whether the price is fair.

Good advisor performance is more subtle than rate of return.

Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international public accounting firm and is now with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.


This entry was posted in Decision Making, Personal Finance and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s